Trump defends ‘America First’ agenda


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday predicted that a new health care law would be passed by a substantial margin and “pretty quickly,” expressing optimism for his top legislative priority during his first news conference alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Trump reiterated his contention that majority Republicans will win passage of a troubled health care bill that would repeal and replace the sweeping health care law signed by former President Barack Obama. His comments came with the bill’s future uncertain as party leaders push to gain enough support to pass it through the House next week.

“It’s going to be passed I believe substantially pretty quickly. It’s coming together pretty quickly,” Trump said as Merkel stood by.

The health care overhaul would kill much of Obama’s 2010 health care law and create new tax credits and curbs on Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for lower-income people. It would create new, leaner tax credits for health insurance, cap federal spending on Medicaid for low-income people and reverse tax increases on wealthy Americans used to finance Obama’s statute.

In his first one-on-one meeting with Merkel, Trump reaffirmed the United States’ “strong support” for NATO but also reiterated his stance that NATO allies need to “pay their fair share” for the cost of defense. Trump said many countries owe “vast sums of money” but he declined to identify Germany as one of the nations.

Merkel said at the start of her remarks that it was “much better to talk to one another and not about one another.”

Their agenda in White House meetings included discussions on strengthening NATO, fighting the Islamic State group, the conflict in Afghanistan and resolving Ukraine’s conflict, all matters that require close cooperation between the U.S. and Germany. The meetings, postponed from Tuesday because of a snowstorm, could represent a restart of a relationship complicated by Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail.

Prior to his inauguration in January, Trump declared NATO “obsolete” but has since modified his stance, telling European leaders the alliance remains of strategic importance. Only the U.S. and four other members currently reach the benchmark of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense. Germany currently spends 1.23 percent of its GDP on defense, but it is being increased.


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